The best gift for Father’s Day is Equal Parental Leave
This Father’s Day, many dads will receive heartfelt cards and a new pair of socks, and will spend some welcome time with their kids. Sadly, most fathers must carve out this space in the context of a working culture that says their job is to bring home the cash, rather than get involved in the day-to-day care of their kids. Nowhere is this message more clearly laid down than in the UK’s persistently poor support for new dads.
Recent news stories have highlighted how paltry the UK’s support for new dads remains – the vast majority are able to access just two weeks paid leave (the statutory minimum) 1 ; many who on paper can take more time aren’t able to because employers rarely make it financially viable – choosing to offer unpaid leave rather than properly remunerated time off 2.
Offering equal parental leave as standard
Numerous studies have highlighted the detrimental impact this is having on families and wider society. The latest Women In Work Index estimates that were the UK to offer ‘equal parental leave’ as standard (where dads / non-birthing partners can access the same leave and pay as mums / birthing partners) we would see more children do better in school and there would be a radical reduction in levels of postpartum depression (for both mums and dads)3. Even The Lancet has come out to say ‘Parental leave might help alleviate mental health symptoms by preventing or reducing stress associated with childbirth and infancy.’4
These findings build on already well-established evidence that if we are to achieve true equality at work (be it closing the gender pay gap, or ensuring women are still present the higher up the hierarchy you go), greater equality in the home is vital. Outdated and arguably sexist policies that position women as default ‘primary carers’ and exclude dads from fully sharing in the joys (and challenges!) of looking after kids are a key driver in women’s continued struggle to enter, remain and thrive in paying work.
Early trailblazers igniting change
There are signs this growing clamour is beginning to unlock the change we desperately need. When Business in the Community (BITC) first launched the Who Cares campaign, which calls on employers to support people of all genders to care, and adopt equal parental leave as standard, our research suggested around 15 UK companies offered equal parental leave. Early trailblazers included Ipsos Mori, Bain & Company and insurers Aviva. These leading companies have now been joined by the likes of Natwest, John Lewis and Volvo in offering gender neutral parental leave. Others have made welcome moves to dramatically enhance parental leave for partners – Hodge now offer 20 weeks paid leave for new dads. Our latest analysis suggests around 35 UK employers now offer truly equal gender neutral parental leave.
Why not take this Father’s Day as an opportunity to find out what your employer is doing to support new parents – and urge them to join the increasing number of companies going beyond the legal minimum?
BITC’s Equal Parental Leave resources include case studies of companies that have taken action, a toolkit exploring how to initiate the change at your organisation (exploring the clear business benefits) and a unique ‘equal parental leave calculator’ to help you understand what the costs could be – and the way that these will be made up in the longer term.
This Father’s Day let’s try for more than socks and a wacky tie; let’s try for equality!
ACCESS A WIDE RANGE OF RESOURCES TO MAKE YOUR WORKPLACE MORE INCLUSIVE
Including all Gender Identities at Work
Charlotte Woodworth, Gender Equality Campaign Director and Anisha Doshi, Senior Inclusion Advisor, Business in the Community (BITC), on ensuring gender identity is no barrier in the workplace.
Creating a menopause-inclusive culture in the workplace
Read how important it is for business to recognise menopause and provide a menopause-inclusive culture in the workplace.
Are Employers Really Progressing Their Pay Policies?
Emelia Williams, Social Impact Officer, Business in the Community (BITC), investigates how much progress is being made in addressing fair pay and transparency.
4 The effect of parental leave on parents’ mental health. The Lancet ( January 2023).